Farmers planning for next spring may utilize crop prices to influence seeding intentions

Now that harvest is complete, farmers are turning their attention to next season.

Part of the decision-making process is looking at which crops to plant based on prices. Chief Agricultural Editor of Kevin Hursh looked at prices now compared to the same time a year ago, and noted most prices for crops are down but a few are a bit higher.

He says the price for canola has slumped to around $15 a bushel, a $4 decrease compared to last year.

“Not only is that return going to factor in the decision-making, but the drop in price is going to reduce crop insurance price and coverage and in some of the areas that maybe seeded canola because it was a really good incentive from the crop insurance coverage, that’s going to decline as well.

“I think canola is going to be an acreage loser next year when you start doing the analysis, unless something very dramatic changes between now and spring.”

He also says spring wheat is down over $2 a bushel compared to a year ago, and feed barley is also down by nearly 2 dollars.

Hursh believes barley will take the bigger acreage hit based on China buying feed barley from Australia and American corn “seems well-entrenched as an alternative in Alberta’s feedlot alley.”

One crop that disappointed Hursh the most was durum wheat. While durum isn’t down much year-over-year, he says with drought gripping western Saskatchewan and Alberta, producers were expecting a repeat of 2021 when drought pushed durum prices above $20 a bushel. However, it was close to $15 before slipping to around $13.

“That’s still a strong premium over spring wheat so I don’t expect acreage will crash — it’ll probably stay pretty steady. But unexpectedly, there’s been large durum exports from Turkey and that’s been pegged as one of the reasons why durum, at least to this point, has not reached its price potential that some thought it would have earlier in the year.”

He says oats is one of the bright spots with a 50 cent a bushel increase, adding if the price continues to improve so will the acreage.

Regarding pulse crops, Hursh noted they are a mixed bag. Yellow field peas are around $10 a bushel, $2 less from a year ago; green peas are around $15 a bushel, and maple peas $25.

“Because seed will be so expensive and seed availability may be an issue and that crop will go from boom to bust because its a minor acreage specialty pea, it’s hard to know what will happen with maple pea acreage — how much might that increase and how much of a viable opportunity that is.” Hursh said of maple peas.  

Red lentils are up 2 to 3 cents from last year at around 36 to 37 cents a pound and large green lentils are up 13-14 cents to 63 cents a pound.

“I would expect more green lentils to go in the ground in 2024, maybe a slight increase in reds as well, but certainly there will be a bias towards green lentils given that kind of price signal at this point.” Hursh added.

He says flax at $17 a bushel is down over 2 dollars from last year and doesn’t expect additional acres of that crop as a result. Canary seed is about the same year-over-year at around 45 cents a pound.

While a lot of information to process, Hursh says it will be interpreted differently from farmer-to-farmer.

“Everybody makes their own decisions and not all crops are adapted to all areas,” he said. “Looking at current prices can be deceptive because prices can change between now and then but certainly as the winter proceeds, and the price directions producers see, will certainly be affecting their cropping plans as they do their cropping budgets for the new year.”

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